From student digs to family homes, washing up liquid is an item that will be found in every house across the country.
It’s likely that you’ve never really considered the impact that washing up liquid has on the environment.
I hadn’t really until recently when I started to wonder is washing up liquid bad for the environment? Surely there must be eco friendly washing up liquid versions out there?
The answer to both questions is ‘yes’ – it can be bad for the environment but there are sustainable, eco friendly washing up liquids available.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at the negative side of washing up liquids before considering some of my favourite sustainable washing up liquid alternatives.
Is traditional washing up liquid bad for the environment?
Some of our favourite washing up liquids are harmful to the environment.
The very nature of washing up liquids means that they end up down our drains. Therefore, what they’re made up of is important for the health of our waterways and the network of ecosystems that are directly impacted.
Any unnecessary chemicals in our rivers and water systems can have both short and long-term effects on wildlife.
It’s a similar story when you consider other everyday kitchen and bathroom products, including laundry detergent (read about eco laundry sheets here), dishwasher tablets, shampoo (find eco shampoo here), toothpaste (see eco toothpaste alternatives), toilet cleaner (see sustainable toilet cleaners here) and even toilet paper (see eco friendly toilet paper). These items are all similar in the fact they get washed down the drain to enter the water system.
Traditional washing up liquids have the following characteristics, which can be bad for the environment:
1. Harmful chemicals
Nasty chemicals can get flushed into rivers and seas via our kitchen sinks. Chemicals include:
2. Plastic packaging
Non-recyclable or rarely recycled packaging. Single-use plastic bottles are a staple in the cleaning industry, with customers often encouraged to buy smaller quantities of washing up liquids rather than promoting sustainable options, or larger quantities to avoid replacement waste.
See if your plastic bottle has the right plastic resin code to be recycled.
3. Polymers within detergents
Liquid polymers are sometimes present within household cleaners. These are not very biodegradable and remain within habitats and ecosystems for many years.
4. Palm Oil
This industry is a major driver of deforestation, destroying the habitats of endangered species such as the orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. This is why the switch to non-palm oil products is so important.
With all these issues with traditional washing up liquids, it’s time to delve into eco friendly options as a potential solution to these problems.
What makes an eco friendly washing up liquid?
The meaning of eco friendly can be very broad. It’s more often the case than not that products do not fulfil every criteria to be 100% sustainable.
However, something that’s ‘eco friendly’ should provide a solution or product that is ‘greener’ than the standard form. The landscape can get a little murky, which is where the problem of greenwashing comes up. Have a look at my Eco Glossary for definitions of these different terms.
In short, an eco friendly washing up liquid is one which has a:
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Reduced waste
- Reduced harmful chemicals
- Reduced impact on our environment
The majority of the eco washing up liquid options out there market themselves as sustainable due to their reduced impact on the environment.
This is because they have removed unnecessary chemicals from their products, haven’t tested on animals and have packaged the washing up liquid in recyclable or previously recycled packaging.
If you’re using a more sustainable washing up liquid, you’ll want to pair this with an eco friendly sponge too as traditional washing clothes and scourers are primarily made from fossil fuel plastic.
Is plastic free washing up liquid a thing?
A plastic-free lifestyle is a desirable one. Achieving it in full though is rarely possible. This is the same for washing up liquid, unfortunately.
Even when bought in bulk quantities, or at refill stations, when washing up liquid is in a liquid form there’s still a heavy reliance on plastic.
Plastic is often necessary, and very useful, for the transport and storage of liquid products, including washing up liquids.
Despite this however, there are a number of alternative products that do offer a reduced plastic solution for dishwashing needs.
An example of this is washing up soap bars, which remove the need for plastic packaging. A downfall to this is the price point – around £6 per bar!
Types of sustainable washing up liquid
Eco washing up liquids can be divided into a few different sub divisions. All are good ways to go greener at home.
A very sustainable washing up liquid may tick off all of the categories, whereas others will fuflil just the one.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most common types of eco washing up liquid.
Plastic free solutions are ones which do not contain any plastic packaging. These usually come in solid forms, in bars (think traditional soap bars), or in powder forms.
A downside here is usually the price point!
Washing up liquid refills
Refills are options which allow the user to refill their own containers to take home.
Not only does this option give the user the choice on the quality of product, but also the type of container they use.
A drawback here is the requirement for specialist shops to have refill counters, which may not be accessible to all.
Natural options contain less, or no chemical additives. They also boast the use of naturally occurring chemicals, fragrances and additions. These can include the following:
- Natural fragrances and essential oils
- Plant extracts
Other sustainable washing up liquid criteria:
There are also other criteria which many brands use to define their sustainability. Some of these include:
- Not testing on animals
- Recycled plastic packaging
- Biodegradable ingredients
Best eco alternatives to washing up liquid
There are many eco washing up liquid alternatives out there to choose from.
However, to make it easier for you, we’ve narrowed down 5 differents eco brands below to compare and contrast their characteristics.
I’ve used many of the brands below and can confirm that they’re just as good as their traditional counterparts.
Five of the best eco washing up liquid options are:
- Bio D
The table below compares these 5 sustainable options. The shop links contain affiliate links to Ethical Superstore, a superb eco shop.
|Usual Size||500 ml||750 ml||740ml||1000ml||950 ml|
|Fragrances||Cool cucumber & apple,|
Orange blossom & coconut
|Pink grapefruit, lavender, mandarin, fragrance free||Natural orange||Natural citrus||Lemon & aloe, Chamomile & clementine|
Pomegranate & fig
|Chemicals||No – plant based||Contains surfactants||Contains surfactants||Plant based surfactants||No – biodegradable|
|Tested on animals?||No||No||No||No||No|
|Refillable?||No||Yes – 5L or 20L||Yes – 4L||Yes – 5L||Yes|
|Plastic?||Yes||Yes – 100% recycled||Yes – 100% recycled ‘Enviro Bottle’||Yes – recyclable bottles||Yes – 100% post consumer recycled plastic|
|Eco Claims||Peta-approved, palm oil free, plant based, made in Britain||Biodegradable, pet friendly||Biodegradable, carbon neutral transportation, factory is 100% green electricity||Natural, biodegradable (plant based)||Fully biodegradable, kind to marine life, Zero Waste factory|
|Other Criteria||Concentrated washing up liquid||Hypoallergenic||Low concentration of volatile organic compounds||Palm oil free, paraben free, phthalate free||Suitable for sensitive skin|
|Shop online||Buy Ecozone||Buy Bio D||Buy Ecomax||Buy Ecoleaf||Buy Ecover|
Ecover is a popular eco alternative that I’ve used many times as it’s usually well stocked in supermarkets. On the surface and as a product, Ecover is a fantastic choice. They also provide laundry detergent and conditioner.
The reason it’s so prominent is that it’s now owned by US cleaning giant SC Johnson. Unfortunately this company do have severe ethical issues.
Still, the product itself is sustainable and readily available, making this switch an easy one. If it helps people switch to more eco friendly products, then it’s a good thing.
Is hand washing better than using a dishwasher?
Is it more economical to hand wash dishes or put them in the dishwasher?
This is a good question.
I’ve often wondered it myself.
Using the dishwasher on an eco cycle once per day is generally more energy efficient than washing several sink fulls of dishes throughout the day.
Did you know that an energy efficient dishwasher can use as little as 6 litres of water per cycle and cost as little as 18p per load?
Over the course of a week this equates to around £1.30 of total electricity costs for the dishwasher.
That said, if you have an older dishwasher model that isn’t particularly energy efficient, it will cost you more like 50p per load.
Wrap up on sustainable washing up liquid
With many eco options available at similar price marks to the traditional forms, it should be a simple choice to opt for a more eco friendly washing up liquid.
As with any good swap, you don’t have to, and shouldn’t have to, compromise on the effectiveness of the product. After all, if it doesn’t smell nice and doesn’t wash the dishes, you’re not going to choose it again and it’s therefore not sustainable.
Thankfully, all the eco washing up liquids I’ve used have been highly effective and smell great!
Many of the sustainable washing up liquids above have their benefits and drawbacks. Personal preference will come into your choice. For example, you may prefer a refill option over one that’s purely plant based.
It’s important to make sure the washing up liquid does the job correctly, comes with the right eco credentials and is at a good price point for your budget!
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I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Away from the laptop, I love spending time in nature and with my young family (plus Murphy the dog!). I write and send out the Eco Life Newsletter.